Giants defensive end Leonard Williams enters MetLife Stadium before a game against the...

Giants defensive end Leonard Williams enters MetLife Stadium before a game against the Washington Commanders. Credit: Ed Murray

Leonard Williams reached up as high and as far as he could, and his fingertips even managed to graze the football as it buzzed past his outstretched hand. Teammate Dexter Lawrence said he heard the twin thuds of the kick and the block and thought for a moment that the Giants were still alive.

That’s how close Williams came to blocking the overtime field goal in Sunday’s loss to the Jets.

That’s how close he came to likely remaining a Giant today.

On what turned out to be his final snap for the team he  said earlier in the week that he’d come to love, that he’d just begun to identify himself with, had Williams managed to deflect Greg Zuerlein’s 35-yard kick and prevent it from going through the uprights, the Giants might have won or tied the game. Their organizational approach to the coming 2 1/2 months of the regular season might have remained focused on the present.

Instead, the kick was good, the Giants fell to 2-6 and, on Monday, they started thinking about 2024.

As far as the front office is concerned, this season is over.

The Giants traded Williams to the Seahawks on Monday for a second-round pick in April’s draft and a fifth-rounder in 2025.

The deal required some adjustments in the structure of Williams’ contract. The Giants will pay him roughly $9 million of the $10 million he is owed for the rest of this season as a bonus, with the cap hit able to then be spread over the remainder of this year and next. That gave them some relief as they strain against this year’s cap limit.

Once those changes were finalized, Williams was headed across the continent to a 5-2 Seahawks team that is in first place in the NFC West to start helping them make their push for the playoffs and beyond.

The team he leaves behind no longer has such aspirations for this season. It’s why the Giants are likely to continue to be sellers right up to Tuesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, with several other veteran players who  no longer are part of the future vision of the team being shopped for picks that may be able to aid what is looking more and more like a rebuild. A rebuild that, in retrospect, probably should have begun to take place this past offseason rather than this coming one.

Instead, the Giants were duped by their own success in 2022.

They committed to Daniel Jones, who has missed the last three games with a neck injury. He was just cleared to return to full- contact participation on Sunday, but because he’d already been ruled out on Friday, he was unable to dress for the game, even as a backup in what would have been a huge role that instead went to undrafted rookie practice-squadder Tommy DeVito when Tyrod Taylor left with a rib injury.

While Jones’ expected return this week avoids a quarterbacking calamity for the Giants, even before his injury, he wasn’t living up to his contract. He threw for two touchdowns with six interceptions, and the Giants' offense  reached the end zone in only two of his five starts.

They extended left tackle Andrew Thomas, who gave them one healthy offensive possession before suffering a hamstring injury in the opener and missing every game since. He might be back on Sunday. He might not.

They even gave kicker Graham Gano a big new deal in what felt like the safest money the Giants have spent in years. However, he’s connected on less than two-thirds of his field-goal attempts this season, including two misses on Sunday that cost the Giants the game.

The one contract they doled out that has worked for them was to  Lawrence, who has dominated the middle of the field the last two games. Lawrence’s play was aided by the presence of Williams next to him, though, both from a schematic perspective and a personal one as the two became very close friends. Now he and the Giants don’t even have that going for them. 

Williams wasn’t going to be part of this team next season, so it was smart to get what they could when they could, and they seem to have gotten more than a fair price for him. A second-round pick should yield them a starter. It could even give them the resources to move up in the first round if there is a player they love. (Maybe even a quarterback.)

But make no mistake: The Giants didn’t come into this season thinking they would trade Williams even though he was due to become a free agent. They believed he would be able to help them win this year.

They thought a lot of players who were part of the 2022 playoff team would.

Williams came closer than most. It just brushed off his fingertips.

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